YOUR ‘NOW’ DECIDES THE PAST


    PHILOSOPHER: It is true that this argument is difficult to accept. But if you calmly lay out all the facts, I am sure you will agree. Because there is no other path here.
    YOUTH: Well, it seems to me that the heat of your passion for ideas has burned a hole in your head. If you say the past doesn’t exist, then how do you explain history? Maybe your beloved Socrates and Plato didn’t exist? Look, that’s what you’re implying, so you’re going to be ridiculed as unscientific.
    PHILOSOPHER: History is a grand story that is continually manipulated by the powers that be of the time. It is always manipulated with great skill on the basis of the logic of the powerful that says, ‘It is I who am just.’ All chronologies and history books are apocrypha compiled for the purpose of proving the legitimacy of those currently in power. In history, it is always the ‘now’ that is the most correct, and whenever one authority is overthrown, a new ruler will rewrite the past again. But they will do so only for the purpose of explaining their own legitimacy. So ‘the past’, in the most basic sense of the word, does not exist.
    YOUTH: But . . .
    PHILOSOPHER: For example, suppose an armed group of a certain country is planning a coup d’état. If they are suppressed and the attempt ends in failure, they will be defamed in the history books as traitors. On the other hand, if the coup d’état succeeds and the government is overthrown, their names will be remembered in history as heroes who took a stand against tyranny.
    YOUTH: Because history is something that is always rewritten by the victor?
    PHILOSOPHER: It is the same with us as individuals. Every person is a compiler of a story of ‘me’ who rewrites his or her own past as desired to prove the legitimacy of ‘me now’.
    YOUTH: No! It’s different with the individual. The individual’s past, and memory, is the domain of neuroscience. Stay out of it! An outdated philosopher like you has no business there. PHILOSOPHER: With regard to memory, think of it like this: from the innumerable events that have happened in a person’s past, that person chooses only those events that are compatible with the present goals, gives meaning to them and turns them into memories. And conversely, events that run counter to the present goals are erased.
    YOUTH: Huh?
    PHILOSOPHER: Okay, I’ll give you an example from my counselling. Once, a man I was counselling recalled an incident from his childhood in which a dog attacked him and bit his leg. Apparently, his mother had often told him, ‘If you see a stray dog, stay completely still. Because if you run, it will chase you.’ There used to be a lot of stray dogs roaming the streets, you see. So, one day he came across a stray dog on the side of the road. A friend who had been walking with him ran away, but he obeyed his mother’s instructions and stayed rooted to the spot. And the stray dog attacked him and bit his leg.
    YOUTH: Are you saying that memory was a lie that he fabricated?
    PHILOSOPHER: It was not a lie. It is probably true that he was bitten. There had to be a continuation to that episode, however. Through several sessions of counselling, the continuation of the story came back to him. While he was crouching down in pain after getting bitten by the dog, a man who happened to be riding by on a bicycle stopped, helped him get up and took him straight to the hospital. In the early stage of counselling, his lifestyle, or worldview, had been that ‘the world is a perilous place, and people are my enemies’. To this man, the memory of having been bitten by a dog was an event signifying that this world is a place full of danger. However, once he had begun, little by little, to be able to think, ‘The world is a safe place, and people are my comrades,’ episodes that supported that way of thinking started coming back to him.
    YOUTH: Hmm.
    PHILOSOPHER: Was one bitten by a dog? Or was one helped by another person? The reason Adlerian psychology is considered a ‘psychology of use’ is this aspect of ‘being able to choose one’s own life’. The past does not decide ‘now’. It is your ‘now’ that decides the past.
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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